A.J. Ogilvy had just scored 25 points Wednesday, but the Vanderbilt freshman center had more pressing matters to tend to than speaking with the media.
With his parents in town from Australia, Ogilvy was excused from the post-game news conference after leading the 13th-ranked Commodores to an 80-73 victory over South Carolina at Memorial Gym.
On this night, VU coach Kevin Stallings was happy to let Ogilvy skip out.
“Especially since the young man came however many thousands of miles to play for us,” Stallings said.
On Wednesday, Vanderbilt was particularly grateful to have the 6-foot-10 Aussie, who scored 21 points in the second half. The Commodores improved to 16-0 and extended their school-record season start.
In his first taste of Southeastern Conference play, Ogilvy continued to provide VU with an imposing inside threat and a presence with which few teams have been able to contend.
Ogilvy tormented the Gamecocks inside and scored six straight points during a key 9-0 run that gave the Commodores a 64-56 run after they trailed 56-55. VU led the rest of the way.
“That kid is very talented,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said of Ogilvy.
Vanderbilt needed all it could get from Ogilvy on a night when its top scorer, Shan Foster, limped through an uncustomary off night. He made only two of nine 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.
“A.J. was terrific in the second half,” Stallings said. “We did a good job of finding him and getting him the ball.”
Feeding Ogilvy had been VU’s plan from the start, but that strategy fell by the wayside when the Commodores mostly settled for 3-pointers in the first half and committed nine turnovers in the first 14 minutes.
Things changed in the second half.
“The game was on the line and A.J. gave us some buckets,” said Vanderbilt guard Jermaine Beal, who recorded six assists. “We were having a hard time throwing it down there for a little while, but we figured it out.”
Even with Ogilvy dominating in the post, the Commodores struggled to vanquish the Gamecocks. A 3-pointer by Zam Fredrick tied the game at 56 with 10:40 remaining.
That’s when Vanderbilt clicked off its decisive 9-0 run. Alex Gordon canned a three, and Ogilvy scored three straight inside baskets to make it 64-56.
Still, South Carolina wasn’t finished. A trey by Dwayne Day and a jumper by Devan Downey cut VU’s lead to 71-69 with 1:45 to play.
Gordon answered with a 3-pointer with 1:27 left to give the Commodores a 74-69 advantage. Stallings reacted to the shot by running several feet onto the floor and happily greeting Gordon after Gamecocks coach Dave Odom called a timeout.
Beal and Ogilvy combined to make six consecutive free throws in the final 35.2 to ice the victory.
Downey led South Carolina [8-6] with 22 points and Fredrick added 21.
GOLD NUGGETS: Foster now has 298 career 3-pointers and moved into the VU all-time career lead Wednesday, passing former guard Ronnie McMahan for the top spot. …Vanderbilt has won four consecutive games against South Carolina. …VU’s 16-game winning streak ties for the longest streak in school history. The Commodores had a 16-game winning streak that began in the 1926-27 season and continued until the first game of the 1927-28 season.